The idea of only getting 4 periods a year with some of the new pills, or having no periods at all by taking the shot, doesn't seem right to me. I don't have a reason other than my cycle seems like something that shouldn't be interfered with. Are there any medical reasons to keep bleeding?

That is a great question. The short answer is YES.

The longer answer is: Menstruation - and, just as importantly, the hormonal cycle that leads to menstruation - helps protect our cardiovascular system and our bones, and keeps our sexuality vibrant. Bleeding rids us of excess iron, which is may be one of the reasons pre-menopausal women have fewer heart attacks and strokes than men and post-menopausal women. Our hormonal cycle gives us some time of naturally lowered blood pressure for part of the month. Women on hormonal contraceptives have higher blood pressure. Healthy bone density is promoted by the estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone we have as a result of our normal cycling. Depo-Provera, or "the shot," is known to cause bone loss. KNOWN TO. Even in very young women. It also interferes with libido and sexual sensitivity, as can other forms of hormonal contraceptives.

Some of you may be thinking that if you're on oral contraceptives right now, you're missing out on the benefits of any hormonal cycling already. Why bother having the withdrawal bleed, the "fake period," at the end of the month?

Two main reasons: one, to still rid the body of some excess iron, even if it isn't as much as you lose when truly menstruating. And two, to stand up to the idea that menstruating is a problem!

If suppressing this normal, healthy, health-promoting function of our bodies seems like an answer - what is the question?

To me, this invites other questions. Why are we disgusted by our bodies? Are we too busy to slow down even for a couple days a month? If menstruation is a time of pain and struggle, what aspect of health is out of balance?

And on that last subject, one more thought. For women with debilitating pain around menstruation, life-threatening levels of bleeding, or other extreme situations, it might not be a bad idea to suppress menstruation temporarily while these problems are addressed. That's a question for her and a doctor she trusts.

For most of us, though, I'd say the risks of menstrual suppression outweigh the benefits - and I also feel confident saying we do not yet know what all the risks are.